The Fighting Chance doesn’t land a punch

The Fighting Chance is about upper crust young Americans who have nothing they must do but can’t do nothing well.

Leading lady Sylvia Landis hails from a line of promiscuous women. She’s engaged herself to filthy-rich bachelor Howard Quarrier hoping—but not believing—his money will secure her fidelity.

The Fighting Chance by Robert W. Chambers

Project Gutenberg EBook #7492. My Grade: B.

Although Sylvia is sure she needs mega-millions for happiness, she falls for Stephen Siward, who has only enough to live on without working.

Stephen was recently dropped from an exclusive club for conduct unbecoming a gentleman while drunk.

Drink has been the downfall of the Siwards for generations.

The story begins to get interesting when a sharp, amiable young businessman with upwardly mobile ambitions comes on the scene.

Beverly Plank is socially inept, but he’s the sensitive, tough-minded friend Siward needs.

Plank not only gets Siward off booze, but provides him with challenging work figuring out what financial shenanigans Quarrier is up to.

When it was that [Siward] first began to like Plank very much he could not exactly remember. He was not, perhaps, aware of how much he liked him. Plank’s unexpected fits of shyness, of formality, often and often amused him. But there was a subtler feeling under the unexpressed amusement, and, beneath all, a constantly increasing sub-stratum of respect. Too, he found himself curiously at ease with Plank, as with one born to his own caste. And this feeling, unconscious, but more and more apparent, meant more to Plank than anything that had ever happened to him. It was a tonic in hours of doubt, a pleasure in his brief leisure, a pride never to be hinted at, never to be guessed, never to be dreamed of by any living soul save Plank alone.

Robert W. Chambers does a lot that’s right in his characterization, plot development, and refusal to do the expected, yet somehow the novel doesn’t work.

The romance is too prosaic for escapism, and the most intriguing component of the plot—the friendship between the two men—is inadequately developed to become the novel’s core.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Excess Pages Dim The Right of Way‘s Electrifying Portrait

Gilbert Parker’s The Right of Way is the story of man devoid of human emotion and human intimacy.

The novel opens with a man being acquitted of murder in Montreal thanks to the brilliant summation Charley “Beauty” Steele delivers while “quietly, unnoticeably drunk.”

That night Charley proposes to Kathleen Wantage.

After five years of marriage, Kathleen tells Charley she despises him for ruining her brother, the local minister, and her life.  Charley goes off to a dive where the locals beat him up. One man would have fought for Charley, but Charley spurns him with the question, “Have I ever been introduced to you?”

To that point, the novel is absolutely electrifying. But when Charley is fished out of the river by the acquitted murderer to begin a new life in the Canadian forest, the story becomes increasingly implausible with every page.

Parker doesn’t help by trying to shift attention from Charley’s personality to Charley’s lack of religious faith. By comparison to the electrifying picture of  Charley the drunkard Montreal lawyer, Charley the agnostic tailor is a bore.

Parker gets his power back in the deathbed scene:

“I beg—your—pardon,” [Charley] whispered to the imagined figure, and the light died out of his eyes, “have I—ever—been—introduced—to you?”

Unfortunately, by that time eventually clichés and coincidences have sucked the oxygen from the plot. If Parker had only written a shorter novel, as his foreword says he originally intended, he might have produced a great piece of literature.

The Right of Way
by Gilbert Parker
1901 bestseller # 4
Project Gutenberg e-book #6249

© Linda Gorton Aragoni